London Calling!

Saturday 26th June, Sunday 27th June, Monday 28th June, Tuesday 29th June

Looks like four days in London right….but it was not…..I reached in the evening on Saturday….and left in the morning on Tuesday….so I virtually had only 2 little days…the Sunday and Monday to explore London City…and I loved it…..i am sure to come back to London…someday….soon…!

The thing that hit me most when I landed in London is the number of Indians that you see….they may not be all Indian…but Asians…but it is really nice to see…you hear soo much Punjabi ..hindi….gujrati…Bengali around…it is really really nice….I would say I heard the Indian English accent more in London than the British English!!

So Lodon was nice after switerland…it almost felt like I am back in India..just a cleaner version…with smiliar sounds( languages!)…sights (people!)…..smells ( sooo many Indian restaurants with yummy Indian food!)

Saturday was a day to chill….was super exhausted with the GSE(atleast so I though…%in retrospect the GSE seemed like relaxing as compared to the last week I have had)!I reached the home of my host family only by 5…5.30 in the evening…..was a nice evening with the family…..chit chatting….and going for a walk around the suburb West Draytion that they lived in…and eating some absolutly yummy spicy food….Palak Paneer….Bhindi ki Sabji….two types of dal….oh I had a feast…the taste buds on my tongue which had gone to sleep were rejuvenated with all the spices….and I ATE and ate and ATE…..licking my fingerers….with no pretence of attempting to use the fork and knife! Was absolute bliss…..I am hungry again recollecting the meal!

Day 2: Sunday 27th June

Well actually it was my day one in London…..we got the off peak day pass and now I was free to travel wherever I wanted….

We walked around London city….the Bukkimhim palce….Trafalgar Square….Big Ben…Banks of River Thames…the parliament house…basically saw the sights of London and got a feel of it….we then went to the south bank….beautiful…my favorite place in London…it was such a vibrant lane next to the river Thames….artists performing different interesting things by the banks evey 100 meters…you could just walk there and sit and watch what is happening….I met another friend of mine there,…my room mate from college who has been in London for over 5 years….so she is like a local around….was really nice…..she took us to this place called founders arm to have  a drink by the river Thames…and we tried a typical London summer drink called the PIMMS…was nice…suppose to be mildly alcoholic….but I could bearly taste the alcohol..it was really nice with pieces of fresh fruit…

We then went for an Indian dinner  at a place called Hounslow….:-) Masala Dosa….yummm…..I was eating a masala dosa after more than a month….was nice….the gravy of the chicken tikka masala with the masala dosa was fantabulous…

Day 3: Monday 28th June

This was my day on my own…..:-) Eveyone was working….and I got my day pass and was off the explore the city on my own and had a wonderful day…infact my day was so good that I am inspired to travel on my own sometime again..being on you own was really not as bad as I had imagined..it was pretty damn good!

So I started by day with taking the metro to vist the much talks about Harrolds….and I lukily got lost on the way..i got down at the wrong station…I slept on the metro…and in my sleep….got down one statin before I was actually suppose to….and then I took the bus…taking the bus is sooo much better than taking the metro….especially the double decker…you go up and sit in the front seat and get a nice view of the city..!

Harrolds was nice…on sale….but yet to expensive for me to shop with my Indian salary….after harrolds I was to go to oxford street…but I got tired of the shopping ….rather looking at the shops….so I went to my favorite spot…the South Bank and sat by the banks…listened to music….saw the shows around ..the dance the mime…etc and ate my take away noodle that I picked up from Harrolds…J!

Then I decided to go up the London eye….i should do something touristy right….but it was so so….nothing very great….although I had bought the audio commentary paying an additional 5 pounds…you can bearly make out what is what …and the ride gets over too fast….going up the Eiffle tower was better cause you can stay there as long as you like…

After the London eye..it was time to meet my friend near her place of work…..I had a destination…and a time that I had to reach….so I did not have the luxury of the option of taking the bus and getting lost and exploring the city….

We went to Camden Market…..crazy funky place…so not like the rest of Lodon I had seen to far….was nice to walk around..it almost had a feel of Goa…without the beach…..

Our next stop was Primrose hill…..and we picked up some chips….some drinks and a very yumm chocolate and biscuit cake…( Yeah I know I seem obsessed with the food…no wonder I have put on 4 kgs on my trip…! Luckily I checked my weight  only on the last day when I was checking the weigh of my bags to come back….not that it would have stopped me from eating all the exotic food!)

At primrose garden….we sat on the grass…lay down and talked and talked….about nothing…about everything….life …love…boys…work …watched the sun go down and the lights come on London city…was an amazing evening…..and it was not over yet….I decided to spend the night with my friend….so I could see where she lives….so we took the metro and went to Canary Walf…..another very different area….big buildings….very impressive looking…i guess that was the business district of London…it looked very nice and grand by the night….all lit up….we went to the grocery store…..I love going to grocery stores in a new city…they give you a feel of the place…I cant seem to remember the name of the store!

We finally reached the place where my friend reached at 10 in the night…. I loved the…it was sooo beautiful….a wooden house by the river/stream..lake…I don’t know what it was…but it was still water…and you could see the water from her bed room….sooo perfect…J and we chatted till almost 3 in the night…again about nothing and everything….it was indeed a wonderful evening……J

But the next day I had to get up at 5.45 and take the train at 6….so I could say bye to the friend I was living with before she left for work…..pity in spite of leaving so early and taking a peak time pass which is like 15 pounds as against the 7 pounds… she had left before I reached…L ….but atleast I could say bye to her husband and a little baby!

Overall London was good….i loved the city!

Overall Impressions of London

Nice vibrant city…..yeah people don’t talk to each other in the metors etc…but so what I guess that is the case in any big city….

The good part of the city was…there were so many Indians….it felt soo nice….it is easy to get the food you want…you can get the spices….or even eat out

And the best part of the city was that everyone spoke English! Which was such a relief

If there is any place I want to stay in among the places I visited…it would be LONDON for sure…Is anyone listing…LONDON is calling….I want to go and work there for 6 8 months….what say….!?! Will be fun I think!

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Zurich Airport and Flight to London

Thursday 24th June

The morning stated with a trip to an architecture library….yet another architectural wonder of Switzerland made by the famous Mr Bota…The library was private collections of someone who bought old original books on the architecture and monuments of eurpoe ( my co team members…since I am bad with details…if you remember the name of the guy to who the library belonged…put it in the comments for me!)

After the library…..we went to the cheese factory….finally…this was not part of the original agenda….but we wanted to see a cheese factory…how could we be in Switzerland…and not see a cheese factory!! And since we were a part of the esteemed rotary GSE program….all doors would open for us…So we went to this place called..Schaukaserei Schwyzeland( I looked a photograph and wrote the spelling! Do you blame be for not remembering details) It was an interesting visit…I did not know that to make one ka got cheese you need anywhere between 8 to 12 liters of milk depending on the type of cheese you want…old cheese is hard….new cheese is softer…there is smoked cheese…cheese of milk of different animals…cheese with a very strong flavor….overall the best cheese I liked in switerland was the sheep cheese…..i think it was called….Fatte Cheese ( my swiss friends reading this blog…please correct me…I am sure I have got the spelling wrong!)…my favorite cottage cheese or paneer is looked down upon like a lesser product here…they use tofu instead of cottage cheese to make curries..you get cottage cheese here but it is in a semi solid form and not blocks like we get in India…(I should have taken a picture..but I forgot!). Cottage cheese is sold in plastic containers like they sell yogurt and it is salty…infact…cottage cheese mixes with yogurt was a dish that is sometimes served at breakfast…it almost tastes like our Raita in India!

I know I have gone on a tangent with my discussion on cottage cheese …but my favorite paneer being looked down as a lesser product deserves atleast a discussion on my blog if nothing else!

Now back to the events of the day….We also had lunch at the cheese factory…Alpmacoroni which is a dish with cheese, potatoes , pasta with an sweet apple side dish…this is something that traditionally farmers would eat in the alps because it was cheap to make and very filling..I don’t know about the cheap….but I can definitely vouch for the very filling…we took half a portion and struggled to finish it!

After the cheese factory….we went to another chocolate factory….felcin ( swiss friends is my spelling correct?)  which is a premium swiss chocolate with two objectives…one to see the factory….and the other to buy cheap chocolate….but we could do neither….cause the factory was not open to visitors…even with all the rotary connections and the chocolate was too damn expensive to buy!

After the chocolate factory….we went for a trip to Zurich city…our first visit to the city…and it was quite nice….we met our friends who had come to India for the GSE program…and all of us went for a walk in the old part of the city….basically got a small flavor of the city…want more….luckily I come back and spend two days at the time of Zurich festival over the weekend….should be nice!

Evening was dinner with the family…and then it was time to  learn to play cards the swiss way….did you know that the swiss have a different set of cards with only 36 cards and not our traditional 52 cards….they also have 4 colors…oak..belles…flower…shield..and each of the color had only 9 cards in it…the games are similar in basic concept as to what we play…but the points system is  way to complex! The interesting part was when they keep score….sometime they write the name of the people but mostly they make a circle with slices and the score is kept for each person on where they are sitting!

My host family has given me a pair of swiss cards as a gift…so sweet…I also need a rule book from somewhere…or I will have to make up my own rules!

Overall wonderful day!! It feels so nice to write….it is like downloading all that you have gone through in a day…it is most definitely therapeutic…

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Cheese Making Factory…Zurich Trip….Swiss Playing Cards…

Thursday 24th June

The morning stated with a trip to an architecture library….yet another architectural wonder of Switzerland made by the famous Mr Bota…The library was private collections of someone who bought old original books on the architecture and monuments of eurpoe ( my co team members…since I am bad with details…if you remember the name of the guy to who the library belonged…put it in the comments for me!)

After the library…..we went to the cheese factory….finally…this was not part of the original agenda….but we wanted to see a cheese factory…how could we be in Switzerland…and not see a cheese factory!! And since we were a part of the esteemed rotary GSE program….all doors would open for us…So we went to this place called..Schaukaserei Schwyzeland( I looked a photograph and wrote the spelling! Do you blame be for not remembering details) It was an interesting visit…I did not know that to make one ka got cheese you need anywhere between 8 to 12 liters of milk depending on the type of cheese you want…old cheese is hard….new cheese is softer…there is smoked cheese…cheese of milk of different animals…cheese with a very strong flavor….overall the best cheese I liked in switerland was the sheep cheese…..i think it was called….Fatte Cheese ( my swiss friends reading this blog…please correct me…I am sure I have got the spelling wrong!)…my favorite cottage cheese or paneer is looked down upon like a lesser product here…they use tofu instead of cottage cheese to make curries..you get cottage cheese here but it is in a semi solid form and not blocks like we get in India…(I should have taken a picture..but I forgot!). Cottage cheese is sold in plastic containers like they sell yogurt and it is salty…infact…cottage cheese mixes with yogurt was a dish that is sometimes served at breakfast…it almost tastes like our Raita in India!

I know I have gone on a tangent with my discussion on cottage cheese …but my favorite paneer being looked down as a lesser product deserves atleast a discussion on my blog if nothing else!

Now back to the events of the day….We also had lunch at the cheese factory…Alpmacoroni which is a dish with cheese, potatoes , pasta with an sweet apple side dish…this is something that traditionally farmers would eat in the alps because it was cheap to make and very filling..I don’t know about the cheap….but I can definitely vouch for the very filling…we took half a portion and struggled to finish it!

After the cheese factory….we went to another chocolate factory….felcin ( swiss friends is my spelling correct?)  which is a premium swiss chocolate with two objectives…one to see the factory….and the other to buy cheap chocolate….but we could do neither….cause the factory was not open to visitors…even with all the rotary connections and the chocolate was too damn expensive to buy!

After the chocolate factory….we went for a trip to Zurich city…our first visit to the city…and it was quite nice….we met our friends who had come to India for the GSE program…and all of us went for a walk in the old part of the city….basically got a small flavor of the city…want more….luckily I come back and spend two days at the time of Zurich festival over the weekend….should be nice!

Evening was dinner with the family…and then it was time to  learn to play cards the swiss way….did you know that the swiss have a different set of cards with only 36 cards and not our traditional 52 cards….they also have 4 colors…oak..belles…flower…shield..and each of the color had only 9 cards in it…the games are similar in basic concept as to what we play…but the points system is  way to complex! The interesting part was when they keep score….sometime they write the name of the people but mostly they make a circle with slices and the score is kept for each person on where they are sitting!

My host family has given me a pair of swiss cards as a gift…so sweet…I also need a rule book from somewhere…or I will have to make up my own rules!

Overall wonderful day!! It feels so nice to write….it is like downloading all that you have gone through in a day…it is most definitely therapeutic…

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Wellness Center…Wood Importer….Victorynox factory…Indian Dinner Party!

Wednesday June 23rd

Yet another day is over…..just 2 more days to go…and the program is over…I wish I was part of the one year student exchange program…wish I knew about it when I was 16 years old!

Anyways….the day was nice….and the evening was fantabulous……

The day started with a visit to an architectures office…yet another one….was pretty uneventful…..then was time to visit a wellness center….pity just to see it and not go for a spa treatment! I always though that the wellness industry in Switzerland is quite advanced….but that does not seem to be the case if this wellness center that we visited in Ramada hotel  in was the bench mark….the centers in India are more fancy and more expensive! The IT systems they use were also quite out dated with no CRM system at all….a pity for such an advanced country……apparently at-least in Einsiden…there is hardly any competition….and just another spa in the region….with just 14,500 people that is not very surprising!

Our next stop was to visit the showroom of one of the Rotarians who is an importer of wood flooring…..yeah the business may seem too specific to architecture…but the discussion we had was very interesting……he is the sole supplier to multiple brands of wooden and leather flooring and had a turnover of about 7 million…with a margin of 15 % to 50 % ranging from different brands. For certain brands he would notmallly sell to a wholesaler at a 15 % margin….and the wholesaler would sell it at a 30% margin to the craftsman…and the craftsman who fixes the floor would take anywhere between 20 to 50% of the cost of the material to fix it!  This gentleman has a tie up with a company in China which produces wooden flooring according to their specifications…..they buy the stock and then sell it. Since the risk of carrying the stock lies with them, they have a higher margin of about 50% on the material and yet the customer gets it 30% cheaper than the eurpoean material!

We had a very interesting discussion of the trade of wood across the continent…on how china used to import from Russia…and then it stopped because of political reasons….and then it was the US which went for a toss because of the recession….and now it is France which is the biggest exporter of oak wood to China which gets treated and then back to the western countries

By the end of the discussions…it was lunch time and we had a wonderful meal of vegetable cake….no clue what it was made of…but it was nice….!

Now it was time for the Victornox factory to see how the knives were made…pity that guy did not allow us to take snaps in the factory….but it was a nice tour….and then we got a 30% discount on the store….and my team went mad shopping for knives…perfumes….and god knows what…all I bought is a little nail cutter!

Evening was approaching…..we had promised to make an Indian dinner for 20 people ……dinner starts at 7 here…..we planned to reach back by 5…so we could get the meal ready….but it was 6.15 by the time we actually got back!!

Luckily we were cooking in the hotel of one of the rotaians …so we had all the help and interference from the cooking staff in the hotel….we made a dal….Aalo ghobi ki shabji…..and jeera rice…By the time I reached to kitchen after cooking…the dal was boiled….i was responsible to give it masala and tadka……and make the rice…..and both turned out surprisingly vey very well…they all loved it! Maybe I am a good cook….somewhere deep inside!

We made the Swiss eat chapatti and rice with hand….yeah…..we SUCEDED in making them eat by hand!! It was really nice…..

The evening overall was very nice…..Mayur played the drums….we sang hindi songs….they sand swiss songs….they loved my salwar kameeze….overall a very very lively evening…..had a nice time bonding with all the host families…..looking forward to the party on Friday…our last day here…pity it the last day…..but I am sure  the party will be fun!

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Last Presentation…Coop Visit….Bike Ride@180 kmph!

Tuesday 22nd June

The day started peacefully for a change….we had to start only by 12….:-) so I had a wonderful morning doing nothing…but simply lazing….having a niiiice long bath….sitting on the internet for sometime…

Then it was presentation time….for the last time we gave our standard song and dance on Incredible India….everyone seems to love it….so I guess we are good….but I still feel we could have been better….anyways…it is OVER! Now we will have to start giving presentations on what we did in Switzerland once we go back…now lets see how that goes…

After the presentation and lunch….we went to the Coop Store to meet the store manager ….Coop is a big Bazzar equivalent in Switzerland. There are two major chains in Switzerland…MIgros and Coop….and in every city you have them…Coop has 1000 stored across Switzerland and Migros has 700 stores…however the overall per squatter meter share of Migros is greater than that of Coop.

Coop has three sizes of stores…the 500 sq meter which is the smallest and they have about 500 such stores in the entire country..the 1200 sq meter which are about 400 and the larger 6000 sq meter which are about 100 in the country. The tiny store that we visited had a turnover of 10 million swiss franks for a year…not that sounds quite a bit to me….out of this almost 50% was from fresh perishable items..they had about 14 thousand unique items in the store out of which about 20% were their own brand…however 40% of the revenue came from their own branded products……yeah…lots of statistics…..numbers which don’t really matter….but the store manager was super cute looking so my attention to what he was saying was sharp even for an after lunch meeting!

After this loooong meeting…we went to one of my team member Vivek’s host families house to see the place cause we had heard so much about the large bear that was hanging above his bed…yeah the bear was indeed there hung on the wall…,quite large and scary…..all with the teeth and the tongue….ikky..but I managed to get pictures with it…

Then it was time to go home and the highlight of the day….a ride on a BMW bike…..super cool! Did you know there are heating systems on the bike also to heat the seat and the handles….well this was news for me at least…though it was super cool…the ride was fun….we drover for almost an hour…and must have travelled about 80 odd kms….it was nice….we touched the max speed of 180 kms…..yeah…on a bike…with the temperature of about 10 degrees …..was wonderful…luckily I was fully protected with jackets etc..so I survived….The bike seemed super sturdy and safe…even despite the turns and the speed that we were going on…..was like a nice cold roller costar ride…..one hour was good enough…I wonder how people got for vacations for 2 weeks on the bikes…it is crazy!

Then was dinner time at home…had guests…Tejal and Meghna with her host family joined us for dinner..had a nice evening with some serious conversation on India/ China….etc etc!

Overall a good day…and full day tomorrow staring early in the morning….till then Chao!!

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Local Hospital Visit ..Swiss Lunch..Old Age Home..Cooking Paneer Butter Masala!

Monday  21st June 2010

The day started with a visit to the hospital….was nice for me cause it was like a vocational trip for me but the other got a little bored….this was a 60 bed canton hospital with about 250 employeesl…there are about 260 odd beds in three hospitals in this canton for a population of 14500 people….which is an extremely good ratio.

This canton follows a DRG system for the in patients which means that they get paid a fixed amount for a particular diagnosis of a patient irrespective of the number of days in the hospital. The related morbidity factors are taken into consideration and the fixed amount is calculated. This is different from some of the other cantons I visited where the insurance pays per day that the patient is in the hospital. The ALSO of the patients in this hospital is 5 days and that in hospitals where they are paid per day is 7 days…( not confirmed figures…this is what the doctor said). The surprising part is that there is no rehabilitation hospitals in this canton…they have to liaison with rehab hospitals in other cantons.

Overall interesting visit…got to know another facet of the swiss healthcare system. Their healthcare system is overall very complicated..it is like an onion….you have to peal layer by layer to get to the core…..don’t think I have managed too many layers….

After the hospital visit….we were invited for lunch to a rotarians hotel and were treated to a very special local dish from Einsidenlen..”THE OFEN TURLI” it is a pancake type made of cheese and potatoes with a lot of tasty salads to go with it…

Then it was time to go to the old age home in Einsidelen called “Gerbe”..had a very bried visit…not as details one as the visit I had of the old age home in Meggan…this is the disadvantage of clubbing vocational trips with everyone….it gets boring for the rest and you cant get into all the details you would like to….but overall impression…the facilities very pretty much the same…this one was smaller and cheaper….there were about 78 intimates and an equal number of employees…the charged about 123 swiss franks a day for a orivate room with everything included. A private apartment with a kitchen was only 650 franks….as against 6000 franks for a smiliar facility in meggan…of couse food…cleaning etc is not included in the 650 franks and it is all inclusive in the 6000 franks. The major negative aspect of this old age home I though was that they do not have double rooms for the husbands and wives to move in together…they say there is never  a need as men marry women who are much younger then them and they don’t need care at the same time…! Interesting Eh!

After the old age visit…we went window shopping…bough some wine…looks at chocolates….and then came home……..

I had my host families daughters joining us for dinner today also….and I made Paneer Butter Masala…it was a major hit…even though it was quite spicy….i hardly got to eat much!! Ofcouse instead of blocks of panner you get some other form of grated cottage cheese….i used that and then used sheep cheese to act like blocks of panner….i was super worried cause I had never used Knor masala….but it turned out pretty well…!

Now time to sleep…..chilled out morning tomo…i plan to get up for breakfast…and then go to sleep again…that will be sooo cool!

Last 4 days to go….a little tensed about my London Paris trip…I am unable to get through my hosts in london…I hope they are there and are still willing to host me….!

Gut Nak….sleeping time!

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Walk in the Forest..Doctor…Museum…Dinner

Sunday 20th June 2010

Yet another day is over….we are getting closer and closer to the end of the trip…just 6 more days to go it has been truly wonderful…..i am almost dreading the last 1 week of the trip when I am going to be on my own…but at the same time I am excited about it….London…Paris…Zurich are places I have always wanted to see….so I guess it will be fun..but I have my apprehensions…cause I am going to be on my own…after being treated like royalty here….it will be a big culture change…

Anyways…next week is 6 days away…now for the main purpose of this post…my day today….!

According to the official program…today was suppose to be a free day with the hosts…but FREE day what is that!!?? It is a concept that does not exist in the GSE…and I am quite glad….with just 6 more days to go…I want to see everything I can….!

Today morning started with a 2 hour walk in the rain…the temperature outside was 6 degrees…it was drizzling…but 4 of us …(me a girl from my team meghna..her host and his daughter)..were out on the road with jackets..wind-sheeters and raincoats all set to explore the landscape……

We went to many fields…..saw how they manage the cow dung and make it manure….went to the horse stables….got a horse to lick my hand for the first time!

Then was lunch time….had tomato soup and bread for lunch…looks like the tradition is to have a light lunch on a Sunday afternoon….

After lunch we went for a driver around the town and then to the doctor to get my ear washed…..sooo much wax in my ear that it is not funny…,my own voice is sounding so very different to me now with all the wax cleared out…

Then it  was museum time….we saw a museum that was brand new and had just opened the previous day…it had many old prints of pictures etc….

After the museum..it was time to be back with the host families….eat rocekette today….which is potatoes and melted cheese…..met Jessica and tom the daughter and  Tom her boy friend .was a pleasure to speak English…!

Overall a very nice day…but tiring…now time to sleep…good night world!

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